Australia, Blog, Indonesia

Goodbye Australia; Setting Sail for Indonesia

With just two weeks left on our Australian visas we find ourselves being propelled out of the country. Not by officials but by the tide as it rushes through the Torres Strait Islands, the northernmost outpost of Australia. We are carried along at nearly double our normal speed, with barely a chance to say goodbye. Along with the tide, the trade winds are funneled through this area, creating a conveyor belt whisking us along our way to Indonesia. We are not alone on this moving carpet of wind and water; we are sharing it with several other boats leaving at the same time, part of the Sail-2-Indonesia rally which we will join once we arrive in Indonesia.

The exit from from Horn Island and Thursday Island in the Torres Straight

Watching the rapidly receding Torres Straight islands dip below the horizon brought the reality of our departure from Australia, our home for the last 9 months. Our feelings became as churned as the swirling current surrounding us. No matter how excited we are to be heading towards Indonesia, there are things about Australia we will certainly miss, namely the wildlife, the wild places and the people.

Here is just a taste of the wonderful wildlife we have encountered when exploring the countries bush, rivers, reef.

Despite not staying in one place in Australia for more than a couple of weeks at a time, we have grown comfortable. Australia has not only been similar to the UK but we have been here long enough to develop an understanding of how to go about everyday life. Constant travel can become tiresome; everyday tasks take much more time as we are constantly dealing with cultural differences, mentally calculating currency, working out where to get parts/provisions etc. So long in one country has made our lives much easier as a result, yet gradually a yearning to experience something different has re-built itself within us. The comfort of the familiar, although a welcome break, has left us feeling the ‘adventure’ of this journey has been on hold. We are now ready to move on and kick start the adventure. Lucky really as we are being rapidly propelled towards an entirely new country and culture.


Florence is well in her groove, yet it is taking longer than normal for us to find ours; the steep chop and fresh breeze make life at sea uncomfortable. Tired, lethargic, and grumpy, the grey skies reflect our mood. At 650nm and 4-5 days at sea, this will be our longest non-stop passage of the year. In fact, although we will still be sailing thousands of miles, this year will hold the least open ocean sailing of any year of our trip so far.

After the first couple of days, the sea state calmed down a little and life on board became more pleasant. Our thoughts turned to our arrival in Debut, a rapidly approaching village in The Kai Islands.

As what we hoped would be our final night at sea began, we saw what looked like a small city lighting up the horizon where the chart showed only sea. We had heard the charts were not to be trusted but were they really that far off?


Fishing boats started to appear, another indication of a potential population nearby. Before long over 40 brightly lit fishing boats could be counted around us. By this point it became clear that the nearby city was in fact another huge fleet of fishing boats, lit up by high intensity lights to attract the fish and filling at least 4 miles of the horizon. A long night was spent detouring the floating city and hundreds of other fishing boats, their blazing lights making the boats easy to spot but leaving us wondering about nets and long lines. Usually in situations like this, we would reduce speed to reduce the risk should we become entangled in something, Murphy’s law would have it that we needed to keep averaging 6.5 knots if we were to arrive in Debut in good light,  and to avoid another night in the dark, dodging hazards. Entering Debut in the dark was not an option.


Florence took all of this in her stride, easily maintaining a 7 knot average and occasionally surfing the swell to 10 knots, all under the control of our Aeries windvane steering. Our reliable old girl pulled into the anchorage, in the early afternoon, after just 4.25 days of sailing. There were sobering tales from other boats in the fleet, several had become tangled in nets/lines and at least one hit a reef on the way into the anchorage, requiring their rudder to be removed for a large repair. A strong reminder if we needed one, that we need to be on our toes having left the regulated and well charted waters of Australia.

Checking into Indonesia was certainly an experience to be remembered, but not for the reasons we thought it would be. Stories on the cruising grapevine had us prepared for the most difficult, frustrating and lengthy procedure of any country so far.

Our experience was instead enjoyable. 1 hour after arrival an open boat, packed with 13 smiling officials approached Florence. One by one they made their way down below until it was clear there was no more room down below. The table was pilled with paper work and a production line of signing and stamping was quickly created. Matt lead the signing and stamping while Amy took on the inspection. Before each cupboard/hatch could be inspected, at least one body needed to be politely moved before it could be reached. Our only regret was that we hadn’t had time to set up a camera to film the whole procedure. Once satisfied with everything on board, we were sent ashore for photocopying and more signing/stamping. The village was a riot of colour and sound, the customs office shook with the volume of the welcome ceremony rehearsals, while flags and people lined the streets. Just 3 hours after dropping the anchor we were officially checked in, we are now free to explore Indonesia and boy are we looking forward to it.



Australia, Blog

To the Top of Australia; Rain-forest, Reef and Crocodile Rivers

Sailing north from Magnetic Island we were involved a dramatic sea rescue. A crackly, barely decipherable message over the VHF had mentioned a boat was missing from the anchorage we had just left. Hours later Matt spotted a floating object appearing then disappearing with the waves. As we approached it was clear that it was a tender/dinghy with an outboard attached but no visible people. What was it we had heard on the radio? Just a missing boat or was anyone supposed to be aboard? Circling around the dinghy, a call back to the coastguard eventually confirmed that there were no missing persons, just an adrift dinghy. Panic over, we relayed our position and stayed with the dinghy until the coastguard arrived and towed it back upwind to Magnetic Island.


The resulting good karma brought us Manta Rays circling around Florence as soon as we arrived at our next stop; Orpheus Island. It seemed we were in the prime feeding area as they glided back and forth, close to the boat. Matt jumped in with the gopro but the water clarity was poor so finding them involved some directing from above. Not knowing what else might be lurking in the murky depths, it was a quick dip.

The next morning had us moving on to the Hinchinbrook Channel; often seen as the beginning of this coastlines true tropical region. Signified not by the number of paradise islands, but the volume of rain, rain forest, crocodiles, mosquitoes, humidity and yet more rain. This area is also the start of more accelerated winter trade winds, which will continue up the coast and can blow for months without respite. Hinchinbrook Island is Queensland’s largest national park and the channel between it and the mainland, the most scenic and calm waterway on the East Coast of Australia. At least that was what we had been told was hidden within the clouds. It was somewhere we had hoped to spend more time, yet with all wild places, limited access is what keeps the crowds away. There is only one good anchorage where you can access the shoreline on the island and the bay does not link up with the island’s main walking track. Not liking the thought of having to beat our way through the bush to get anywhere, we decided to leave it to hardier adventurers than us.

A morning brew with a view in the Hinchinbrook channel

Friends on Osprey greeted us in Mourilyan Harbour, like good friends do, with homemade pizza, beer and tales of the latest weird and wonderful Australian wildlife they have spotted. This time, a cassowary; reputed to be the most dangerous bird in the world, spotted just up the road from our anchorage. Think colourful Ostrich, armed with a helmet on it’s head and dagger on each claw. Clearly the only sensible decision would be to go ashore and find one ourselves. Extensive googling revealed that deaths from Cassowary attacks had only happened when the person fell to the ground, at which point the giant bird went in for the kill with it’s dagger claws. Much discussion and many beers later, we had established the best line of defence. Keep our distance, stick together, put our arms above our heads to make ourselves tall, not run (they can reach 50km p/h and love a good chase) and what ever happened, NOT fall over. Having already survived their own Cassowary encounter, Mark and Marjo left us to it as we set out the following morning in a nervous search for the giant, hostile bird. A short distance up the road, warning signs told us we were in the right area before we spotted a lone Cassowary, stalking around the perimeter of a fenced garden. Watching it peer into the windows, and over the fence, it was clear it wanted to be in the house. Eventually a home owner appeared and called over the fence “oh that’s George, the fence is to keep her away from our fruit trees. She’s not too bad but the other 2 that are usually around here with chicks are aggressive @#$%s ” With that we bid George a polite goodbye from about half a mile away and tentatively made our way back to the boat. Cassowary seen. Lives intact. Now what about those crocodiles?

The cassowary’s most dangerous weapon is the razor-sharp claw on the middle toe of each foot, which can grow to be 5 inches long. The second largest bird in the world and most dangerous, their kicks can be fatal. They have also inflicted injury by a series of headbutts using their ‘helmet’. (George was apparently named before her sex was known)

Fitzroy Island, provided a great place to wait out the arrival of some post to nearby Cairns (including we hoped, our passports and Indonesian Visas). We lived like the island’s many visitors for a couple of days, hiking to top of the hill, visiting the turtle rehab centre and snorkelling the excellent reef straight from Florence. However we skipped the noisy beach bar, preferring more relaxed evenings aboard.


The turtle sanctuary on Fitzroy Island is known as the ‘Fat Farm’ as it’s used to fatten up recovering turtles before they are re-released where they were found. This is Jules, a beautiful juvenile green turtle with a love of purple cabbage.
Although the visibility was fairly poor, Fitzroy Island had LOTS of turtles. We saw at least 8 in one swim.

Cairns was a whistle stop. Picking up parcels, provisioning, chores, yet more provisioning. The only ‘nice bit’ we saw of the place was a walk along the foreshore to the Botanical Gardens. That was until our passports didn’t arrive when we expected, delaying us but meaning an unexpected meeting with some sailing friends we met in Vanuatu. Erica and Gunther had temporarily swapped their boat for a car, travelling the same long miles up the coast as we have. They kindly took us out for the day to enjoy their company in the beautiful Kuranda village and forest.

Cairns Botanical Gardens:


By now we had seen a lot of Crocodile warning signs and heard lots of stories but were beginning to doubt our chances of seeing them in the wild. The mangrove swamp of Port Douglas changed that. The largest of these awe inspiring prehistoric creatures we spotted was 2.5 meters long, a mere baby in comparison to the 4.5 meter adult ‘salties’ that inhabit this section of coast.


Friends on Osprey in the beautifully sheltered crocodile swamp of Port Douglas

Cooktown was the last ‘town’ on this coast and until very recently it marked the last sealed road for those venturing the remaining 860 km to Cape York ‘the top of Australia’. Cooktown was the place Captain Cook and his men spent the longest time in Australia, working to repair the holed Endeavour in 1770. They made their first true contact with the Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal people and sighted their first kangaroo here. It became busy gold mine, harbouring thousands of miners and their various vices before the gold ran out and Cooktown was left a ghost town. Fast forward to 2019 and the town is similar to what you might expect from an out of the way town in Northern Australia; one food shop, at least 6 bottle-o’s (liquor shops) and various pubs. The tight, shallow, crowded anchorage didn’t allow for a particularly good nights sleep so having topped up with water and food, we soon headed on.

As well as bringing some welcome shelter from the now relentless trade winds, a stop on Lizard Island gave us the opportunity to both stretch our legs ashore and swim from the boat. The 356m hill above the anchorage is the home of ‘Cook’s Lookout’, the spot Cook climbed when eagerly seeking an escape route from the Great Barrier Reef, which he found in the aptly named ‘Cook’s Passage’ just north of the island. Not eager to leave the reef that has been vastly reducing the ocean swell on our way North, we climbed the hill multiple times, partly because the view was so good, partly because it was the only good place for phone reception on the island. The ability to leave Florence in a secure bay, with easy dinghy access to the beach, no (or very little) worry of crocodiles and multiple walking tracks was a welcome break and part of the reason we stayed longer here than planned.

A visit to the island’s Great Barrier Reef research centre, provided a small insight into the work that is ongoing to protect this precious resource. The ‘Clam Garden’ reef next to the anchorage held more giant (1.5 meter) clams than we could count and some of the best soft coral we have seen.

Florence at anchor on Lizard Island

Sheltered from the ocean swell by the outer reef and pushed along by the constant 20+knot trade winds, sailing the rest of the coast north was both fast and fun. Most of the journey could be broken up into day sails, if we left early enough, allowing for us to arrive at an anchorage with enough light to drop the hook, enjoy the sunset and a good nights sleep before moving on again early the next day. Not having to regularly sail though the night meant the sleep deprived fog that often accompanies our sailing lifted to reveal a rekindled love of sailing. Ticking the miles away, chatting in the cockpit, reading, playing games and even drinking coffee (usually a big no-no in any swell). There were enough sail changes, reefs and shipping to dodge to keep life interesting, yet the flatter water made for some very enjoyable sailing.


Before we knew it we were flying through the tide swept Adolphus channel and passing the wind swept ‘tip of Australia’, Cape York. From here we not only say goodbye to Queensland’s rain forest, reef and crocodile rivers but Australia itself. In our wake we leave the country that has felt like home for the last 9 months and head to Indonesia, the country we are excited to make our home for the next 3 months.

Cape York; the top of mainland Australia


Australia, Blog, Uncategorized

Like a fish out of water


We woke with a start. What was that?


Nothing had startled us. No bobbing, no rolling, no slapping, no gurgling. It’s well over a year since we spent a night on solid ground and the lack of motion is startling.

Our floating home is still our home, yet she is no longer floating. The turquoise waters that usually surround us are now concrete. Dusty, grey concrete. Our toilet and fridge are rendered un-usable. The relentless trade winds blow a layer of dirt over the decks. Getting aboard means climbing a long rusty ladder. Life on the hard is..well…hard. Florence is literally out of her element and we are feeling well out of ours.

There aren’t many things that feel as unnatural to a sailor as having their boat on solid ground, propped up with metal supports. We are grateful that the time here is limited, that we will soon be returning to our more natural state.


Why are we even here? Despite this batch of antifoul faring much better than the last, we had promised ourselves we would never let the antifoul paint get so low again. Nearly a week spent removing barnacle bases in NZ caused some very solemn promises to be made. Florence’s hull has started to grow weed that needs regular removal with a swim and scrub; not so appealing in crocodile infested waters. A few more scrubs and there would be no paint left. Thoughts of this, teamed with the lack of haul out facilities in Indonesia are what brought us to be sat on the dusty hard instead of enjoying the beautiful tropical island neighbouring the boatyard.


With the koala covered Magnetic Island just a few miles away, motivation to get out of the yard was sky high, dramatically spurred on by the fact that each extra day spent on the hard would be another $70 AUD. We ran at the yard, armed with a plan and an hourly schedule of jobs; sanding the hull, applying 4 coats of antifoul, servicing the seacocks, polishing and greasing the prop, changing the anodes, sanding and painting the underside of the dinghy, a major provision for Indonesia, stocking up with food, fuel, cooking gas and water for the next 3 weeks plus applying for and posting the application for our Indonesian visas. With some sanding and painting by spotlight the aim was to be out in 3 days. For a life of wild abandon, we still seem to do an awful lot of work and forward planning.


Less than 72 hours after being plucked from our element, we were on target, Matt scrubbing the decks, Amy peddling as fast as her folding bike could carry her, arms full of provisions, eager to make the rapidly falling tide.

Our tight schedule did not take into account a possible delay in the travel lift getting to us and it was with heavy hearts that we watched the tide flow out and resigned ourselves to another night in the yard. The yard manager softened the blow by offering to operate the lift himself at dawn the next day, not charging us for the night and giving us use of a fridge for our rapidly wilting provisions.

Squeeky clean after one last unlimited hot shower, we hopped aboard and shot across to Magnetic Island. With new paint and a polished prop, Florence gained nearly 1 knot in speed.


Florence is now back at anchor, bobbing around in her element. We are home. A gust hits her side, momentarily heeling her over and spinning her sideways before she is sent back to a gentle roll, wavelets lapping at the hull. “Ahhh” we sigh before drifting into a deep and satisfying sleep.

Magnetic Island

Our time on Magnetic Island was short but sweet, not only due to the excellent ice-cream. Hiking from the anchorage to the popular Forts walk, we found so many wild koalas we actually lost count. Koala’s so close to the path we could see them breathing. Healthy looking males, females and babies. The poor nutritional content of their diet, means they sleep for over 18 hours per day. It’s estimated that there are around 800 koalas on Magnetic Island. One was so close that listening carefully, you could hear him snoring. Watching him, then finding a mother trying to snooze as her baby climbed all over her was one of those special moments that will stay with us forever. Australia’s wildlife has provided us with so many of those magical moments.


Following signs for Florence Bay; (how could we miss that?) we made our way round the eastern side of the island back to our anchorage in Horseshoe Bay.


Heading ashore the following day for a walk on the beach and to sample another flavour of the excellent icecream, we discussed whether we should carry the camera. “no let’s not bother” “okay but now something awesome will happen, like one of those parakeets landing on my head”. A few hours later…..

Thanks to the lovely Dutch couple watching who sent us the photos!

Australia, Blog

Windswept Whitsundays

One of the amazing things about travelling by boat is that we can go pretty much anywhere that has coastline. So using this means of transport to travel to remote, hard to get to and rarely visited destinations makes sense. When socialising with other cruisers, conversation often drifts to amazing experiences shared in far flung, remote places. Less often are the more accessible destinations reminisced about. There can be a tendency to down-play some of the busy, tourist destinations as being spoilt, over-crowded and not worth it. There is a hint that it is less cool to follow the beaten track. What’s often forgotten is that there is usually very good reason for that track being so well beaten, sometimes the destination remains un-tarnished despite its ease of access and volume of visitors. Here on the east coast of Australia there is a very well beaten track and at its end lie the Whitsunday islands.

We had been told that the Whitsundays were so packed with charter boats that we would struggle to find space in the more popular anchorages. Perhaps we were early in the season but we had no problem. Although we were rarely the only boat in the bay, it was never crowded and with so many free public moorings available our anchor had a rest for a change.

Another possible reason for the lack of company could have been the weather. Constant 20 to 30 knot winds with frequent rain squalls meant that our initial sight of the Whitsundays differed somewhat from the travel brochures. Our foul weather gear, life-jackets, and even storm jib all saw more outings in the Whitsundays than on our last ocean crossing! We would have liked to wait for better weather to experience the islands, however time was marching on and there were no weather improvements in sight for over a week. With 3 reefs in the main and wearing our foul weather gear we exited Mackay Marina bound for the southern Whitsundays.


The southern Whitsundays are beautiful, relatively isolated islands. Once upon a time not so very long ago these islands bristled with resorts where Australians would spend their holidays and honeymoons. Now however those same resorts lie deserted, often with just a single caretaker in residence. The resorts became victims of a combination of cyclones and cheap flights to Bali where wages are much lower; meaning the accommodation can be much cheaper. We were amazed to look at the derelict, abandoned resorts which to us seem to be in idyllic locations. Although certainly idyllic on land, the anchorages in the southern islands were lumpy, gusty and rolly. A good nights sleep was hard to come by. Did we mention those constant 20 to 30 knots winds?


Sailing up from the remote southern Whitsundays we approached the main Whitsunday group. We breezed past Hamilton island and its expensive marina, keeping well clear of the end of its runway as a passenger jet blasted overhead. Perhaps this is the start of the busy bit we thought. As it was still blowing up to 30 knots we headed for CID harbour, one of the most sheltered locations in a southeasterly wind. This is apparently where all the charter boats go and yes there they were. But only 4 of them. CID harbour was in the news a lot recently as there was a spate of 4 serious shark attacks there, in fact there were signs all around the beach warning us not to swim. The next bay along is a recommended swimming spot though, no signs there so no-worries mate.


We then bounced our way around the more sheltered of the Whitsunday anchorages, enjoying sailing in the sheltered waters and snorkelling off of Hook island before the weather finally started to improve. Tentatively we ventured out of the shelter and around to the less protected side of the group…


Whitehaven beach is THE place to see in The Whitsundays. Helicopters, speed boats, charter yachts and sea planes all disgorge their payloads of camera toting tourists. There is even a one way system on the walk to the top of the hill to take a selfie with the beach in the background. We fitted in well for a change as we are usually toting at least one camera each when we are ashore these days, just usually set to video rather than photo. Where we differed was our choice of craft for accessing the beach. The creek running through the sand is too shallow for Florence so we had a lovely gentle sail around in The Machine. The beach is so huge that even with all the day-trippers we were able to find a large section all to ourselves, away from the rushing trip boats.


The calm weather was an ideal opportunity to visit some of the outer Great Barrier Reef and see how it compared to Lady Musgrave island (our first taste of the reef). In fact the weather was so calm that we had to motor all the way out to Bait reef where we were able to pick up yet another free public mooring.



Diving into the crystal clear water, we were able to swim straight from Florence to the famous stepping stones. We found huge shoals of fish and one particularly brave giant trevally that took a liking to Amy. Although the fish life here was amazing, sadly the coral of the reef itself is in a poor state ; a lot of it has been reduced to rubble by a number of cyclones. Despite the majority of the reef lacking life, there were large patches where we could visibly see signs of the coral starting to regrow. It was with prune-like fingers we finally pulled ourselves from the water. The wind had picked up whilst we were in the water and un-protected reef anchorage did not hold a lot of appeal in 20 knots of wind. That combined with the forecast for the next few days of very little wind once more, just when we needed it to sail 140 miles north, had us making the decision make use of the wind north there and then. As ever our schedule is governed by the weather.


It was a pleasure to discover that the track to the Whitsundays is well beaten for good reason and there is plenty of space for the crowds to disperse. This is a track well worth following, even for the cool, remote destination seeking sailors. We take with us fond memories. This is one place where it is worth following the crowd.

Australia, Blog

Marina Life in Mackay

“Blooming heck, Florence is in a Marina! That’s an unusual sight!” called our friends from the opposite dock.

It seems we have developed a reputation among cruising friends for avoiding marinas. Why?

Life in a marina is never a relaxed affair for us. We always feel an underlying pressure because we are paying for parking, when we would normally park for free. This additional cost must therefore be justified by making the most of showers, laundry, provisioning and running water for cleaning, scrubbing and polishing. Marinas mean chores. Once clean and restocked, we develop an itch that can only be satisfied by leaving the comfort of the marina. The comfort begins to feel uncomfortable and our freedom stifled.

Like many other like-minded yachts, we had scurried into Mackay marina ahead of a period of stormy weather. With limited snug anchorages available, the cyclone safe harbour of Mackay held great appeal. Admittedly as we stared up at the grey, uninspiring fortress surrounding us it’s a strange appeal, the towering battlements of the stone breakwater reach almost the height of Florence’s mast. This is a long way from the secluded anchorages we usually frequent. However when the strong winds and rain arrived at 3am we rolled over in our bunk with smug grins on our faces and drifted back into a comfortable sleep, only faintly aware of the wind howling over the mast top. The smugness of arriving before the wind and rain was only magnified by the fact that the marina was offering 5 nights for the price of 3.


As well as avoiding the strong winds, another incentive to visit Mackay was to see Alison and Liam, a couple a similar age as us who also own an Oyster Heritage 37. With only 35 every built, it was an opportunity we could not pass on. Our only regret is that the weather and time did not allow for us to take the sisters out for a sail together.

Although our time in Australia has been extensive, our exploration has been limited to a very thin strip of coast line. It is usually both difficult and expensive for us to get inland. With Florence safely guarded from the weather in the marina, we rented a cheap car and set out towards the fresh mountain air of the Great Dividing Range. Our trusty stead held a few battle scars but nothing to dent our excitement at the possibility of discovering a duck billed platypus in the wild.


We are two people that are happiest when immersed in Nature. Nature’s cathedrals of Sea, Mountain and Forrest hold far more appeal to us than their man made equivalents. So breathing in the crisp clean mountain air and hearing the birdsong in the forest is our elixir. Some say that a change is as good as a rest and we felt re-rejuvenated. With excited grins on our faces we set off along the river trails in search of a platypus.


The platypus are small and difficult to spot. It took us a while to find one but when we did we were transfixed; sitting quietly, watching it continually diving down to hunt for food on the bottom of a pool in the river. We were lucky enough to find 5 in total which was more than we were expecting. They are extremely cute!


Along with our platypus hunt we had been recommended to take a dip in Finch Hatton Gorge. We can report that the water is ‘somewhat bracing’, and after stripping off for a swim we had to don all the clothes we had with us and run back down the trail in order to warm up again!



Returning to the fortress, victorious from our Platypus hunt we checked the weather once more to see when Florence could leave. With no improvement in sight for another week the drawbridge was still firmly up. Our feelings towards our knight protector had now changed. Our fortress had become our prison. We longed to be back out on the open sea, exploring secluded anchorages and resented this enforced period of stagnation. With the wind whistling through the rigging of all the boats in a marina, it often seems worse than it actually is. We discussed back and forth whether we should leave, whether that was sensible with 25 knots gusting 30+ in the forecast for the next 7 days. Analysis-paralysis. Eventually we decided we had become too soft; we are ocean sailors and have dealt with these winds many a time. So we donned our armour (foul weather gear and life jackets) put 3 reefs in the mainsail, trampled down the drawbridge and sallied forth to our joust with the weather. As we exited the marina we felt a little foolish; not because it was silly to be out there, but that it was silly to have such a small handkerchief set for a sail. It was fine. Really. So after a quick radio message back to those still imprisoned we let out more sail and set off for the Whitsunday Islands…

Australia, Blog

Fluttering by the Kepple and Percy Islands

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Great Keppel Island reminded us how much can be gained if you take the time to slow down, open your eyes a little wider and look a little deeper.

Sunrise on route to Great Keppel Island

Tired from an overnight sail, our bleary eyes scanned over the dry and seemingly barren landscape. Other than a nice beach, a first glance didn’t reveal much life ashore. The swell wrapped around into our intended anchorage, sending the only boat willing to ride it out, rolling from gunnel to gunnel. Seeking more a more comfortable night than the one we had just had at sea, we snuck around the corner to the western side of the island where life aboard was marginally better. Another safe, yet uncomfortable anchorage, providing much motivation to get off the boat and head ashore.

With our feet firmly planted in the sand, we watched as Florence rolled and pitched in the swell. Despite knowing she was safe we couldn’t help but feel bad for her being tossed around out there whilst we watched from the stable beach.

It would be easy to rush through here. A whirlwind hike around the island, at a pace fast enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Our first day was spent doing exactly that, seeing only our feet and the occasional glimpse of an empty beach as we sped from one viewpoint to the next. If it wasn’t for a friendly local telling us that the grass was in fact greener here than on the next island, we might have missed the beauty of Great Keppel.


Armed with a good slathering of bug spray, we set off the next day for a longer hike out to Wreck Beach and the light house. Despite the early start, the tropical sun soon left us as parched as the earth. The crunch of the crisp, dry leaves under our feet, the only sound cutting through the eerie silence.

Once our senses tuned into the sounds, smells, and sights of the dry bush land, strange mythical like creatures began to appear. Evil looking snake-like lizards slithered out of the leaves. Feral goats peered down at us from their hillside perch. Echidnas scurried to hide from our camera and intrigued faces. Our feet narrowly missed a praying mantis, now frozen in place. Sea Eagles soared above us, sighting their prey. Thousands of butterflies, more than we have ever seen, suddenly surrounded us, creating a surreal fairy tale atmosphere. So much life hiding in such a seemingly barren landscape.

Time runs away with us and we loose hours, stood, staring, entranced by the nature of this strange and mythical land. Slowing down and taking time to watch the butterflies flutter by.

Back in the anchorage, yet still avoiding the rolling aboard, the sunset from the beach gave us more time to appreciate our surroundings.

Sorry to leave the creatures of Great Keppel behind, but happy to say goodbye to the anchorage, we upped anchor at 4 am for the 46 mile sail to Pearl Bay.

With the spinnaker up since daybreak, it was both fast and beautiful sailing.

Sunset at Pearl Bay. This area is a military training ground and access ashore beyond the high tide line is forbidden.

This beautiful bay, picturesque and serene upon arrival, turned into a rolly hell during the night as a northerly swell worked it’s way into the bay.

Sunrise upon leaving Pearl Bay


Another dawn departure and stunning spinnaker filled sailing day had us arriving at Middle Percy Island just before sunset. This kind of sailing doesn’t happen often, especially not two days in a row. At times like this, we can’t imagine travelling any other way.


A passing fishing boat handed us a large Jew fish that would have apparently taken them over their limit. With weeks since we had seen a shop it was gratefully received by both us and our sailing friends.

Middle Percy Island has a long history of visiting yachts. It’s tradition for each yacht to create a memento detailing their names and home port to be displayed within the A-frame shack.

Finding an available spot to hang our creation in the packed rafters took longer than creating it in the first place. Having found plaques of cruising friends who had passed through before us, it was good to know mini Florence would be in good company.


Time away, travelling, has shed years from us. Not in our looks, but in our childlike wonder at the world we have been born into. Like 5 year olds we watch bugs/fish/birds in awe. The self-conscious, restraints of adulthood have given way to a childlike marvel at the magic that surrounds us. No longer just a method of getting from A-B and gaining some exercise, walking has for us become an exciting voyage of discovery.

Australia, Blog

Waltzing with the weather to Lady Musgrave Island

Cruising life is just one long waltz with the weather. Get your timing right and simple movements can create harmonious beauty. Get it wrong and you will soon have a stiletto through your toe.

Bobbing at anchor in the Burnett River, we had been waiting for the music to begin for over a week. Our itchy toes, impatiently tapping, ready to navigate the open floor. If only we had control of the stereo. The cyclone festivities should now be over, making way for the more mellow tunes of the consistent trade winds. Instead the only music we hear is the wind howling through the rigging; creating an erratic rhythm, impossible to follow.

The weather dictates not only where we go and when, but how much we enjoy a place when we get there. Beautifully wild places require beautifully, un-wild weather. With only a fringing reef for protection from the waves and no shelter from the relentless trade winds, Lady Musgrave Island, the destination we were waiting for is certainly beautifully wild. Yet how long do we wait? Every day spent waiting is a day we will have to miss on the islands further north and a day more in the Burnett River. The rhythm of the weather is not always to our liking. Often we have to go slowly when we would like to pass through a place quickly or rush through somewhere we would love to slow down and take our time.

Tired of our surroundings, each morning had us pouring over the weather forecast, longing for an improvement. Yet the forecast was constantly changing. Predicted calm periods were immediately filled with more relentless high winds on the following forecast.

The hint of a lull in the wind had us making a spur of the moment decision at 9pm on a Saturday night. Luckily our life easily allows for wild abandon and spur of the moment decisions. No need to tell anyone of our plans or organise much, just pull up the anchor and leave. A 1am departure would have us arriving in good daylight and at slack tide in the pass.

The relief at having made it onto the floor was immense. We were finally leaving Bunderburg behind and heading for the unexplored (for us) horizon once more. The last few months had been spent re-tracing our steps back up the coast from Sydney. It’s hard to express how much we have missed the excitement of new, unknown places, despite the uncertainty and trepidation they can bring.

A fast sail through the night and our timing at the pass to the lagoon was perfect. Good light and slack tide gave us a smooth, easy approach. But now the question, were we in or out of sync with the weather? Would the predicted lull in the weather actually materialise?

Anchored within the lagoon, life aboard soon became more uncomfortable. Nothing dangerous, just uncomfortable. As Florence pitched on the waves, we retreated to sleep in the saloon (the middle of the boat), where the motion is reduced. Daylight was best spent off of the boat, either ashore on the small island, or in the water, below the chop.

Time ashore was worth the wet dingy ride in, as the other side of the island held a beautiful sheltered beach. The island itself was teeming with bird life. Black Noddy Terns nesting in the trees, so close you could touch them. Shearwater chicks hiding in the burrows built by their parents. Sea Eagles soaring above the lagoon and countless other birds competing to make them selves heard over the wind.

A Nesting Black Noddy Tern 

Usually frequented by tourist trip boats, the island was empty other than the birds and a few hardy campers. The windy weather had caused the tour boats to cancel their trips on all but one of the days we were there.

A rockpool on the sheltered side of the island
The calm beach on the leeward side of the island
A good setting for a haircut

The real reason we had been so keen to visit Lady Musgrave was to see the reef. Many people had told us that the coral here was in much better shape than the Barrier Reef further North. We moved Florence over to some big coral heads by the lagoon entrance and swam straight off the boat to some of the best coral we have seen. Ever. Huge, bright, healthy coral heads of such variety, swarming with reef fish and the occasional turtle. It was such a treat to back in clear, turquoise waters.We would have loved to explore the outer reef in the hope of finding bigger fish, sharks and rays but we didn’t feel comfortable doing so in the windy conditions we had.

Our anchorage by the coral heads we swam to within the lagoon.


We focused on filming the reef at Lady Musgrave and so our limited go-pro photos unfortunately don’t do it justice.  Hopefully the video will do.

The crackly weather forecast over the VHF radio reminded us we must remain light on our feet. The rhythm is changing. It would be a dream to slow down here but we must move quickly. Onward we promenade to The Kepple Islands, 94 miles up the coast…


Australia, Blog

The Horizon is Calling

The end of cyclone season is fast approaching. A break from ocean sailing has done us good. We are feeling good. Florence is looking it. Our blog is however looking a little neglected. How on earth do you fill four months of your life without a job?

Very easily it seems.

The last four months have translated into over 1000 miles sailed, around 60 anchorages visited, countless boat jobs and repairs completed, many more added to the list, many wonderful unexpected people met and many wonderful people we expected to meet with missed.

To cover it all would mean thousands of words. Thousands of words we do not wish to sit and write. Thousands of words we’re sure you do not wish to sit and read. If one picture equates to a thousand words, a story through pictures we shall tell.

Pittwater and the Cowan Creek

Upon leaving Sydney, a few weeks were spent just North of Sydney, up Cowan Creek, a nature reserve full of sheltered anchorages and free public moorings.

Reflections in Cowan Creek
The all round protection gave a welcome break from worrying about the frequently changeable weather.

Many anchorages had no access to shore so getting off the boat meant dinghy trips into the mangroves and tree climbing.

We made the most of the trails in the bays that had access to shore.

Boat baked banana bread and coffee, or a good book in the hammock offered a welcome break from sanding and varnishing.

Back in Pittwater, a couple of lovely local sailors took us for a view of the famous ‘Home and Away’ beach.


Florence at anchor in Resolute Beach, Pittwater. We only seem to take photos on the calmest and sunniest of days. Be aware the story painted by this picture could be misleading. It certainly wasn’t like this every day and the weather only allowed for one night in this idyllic anchorage.
Views over Pittwater the same day.

Port Stephens

Mackerel skies in Port Stephens
It was a brief stop in Port Stephens before catching the next weather window north. By this point we were growing concerned about getting to Brisbane in time for Amy’s Mum and Step-dad visiting.

Coffs Harbour

A short stop in Coffs Harbour allowed us to re-provision, solve some issues with the alternator (thanks to Damon on Ocelot), engine and auto pilot. Thankfully all very simple fixes once diagnosed.

Yamba and Iluka (The Clarence River)


Playing with the reflections in the rock pools near Iluka.

A thunderstorm had us running to a more sheltered anchorage on the Clarence River.

The Southport Seaway (Gold Coast)

The sail up from Coff’s Harbour to the Clarence River was a beautiful downwind run in the company of new friends on Ocelot.

The Southport Seaway brought the opportunity to catch up with some very hospitable locals who follow our videos and spoiled us rotten.

A cycle inland also allowed us to finally find some koala’s in the wild.

Plus many kangaroos.

Moreton Bay

Despite the weather trying it’s best to stop us, we managed to arrive in Brisbane/Moreton Bay in time for two very important visits.

The first visit was from Amy D, a very good friend I first met at university many years ago. She now lives in New Zealand and her company was a major highlight of our time spent there.

Next to arrive into Brisbane were my (Amy,s) Mum, Helen and Stepdad, Robert. It had been nearly 3 years since we had last seen them, just before we left England back in 2016. With 3 weeks together on board we were able to explore further up the coast. First we enjoyed the beaches, walks, wildlife and seafood of North Stradbrook Island.

Then the sand hills and wreck snorkeling of Moreton Island.



A hairy surf in over the Wide Bay Bar of which there are no photos, only exciting memories, brought us to the Sandy Straights and Fraser Island.

Sunset sailing up the Great Sandy Straights
Wild, rare Australian Humpback dolphins visit Tin Can Bay Harbour daily.

Fraser Island, the largest Sand Island in the world, gave us some beautiful forest hikes, including a hike to the Stunning Lake McKenzie, a fresh water lake in the middle of the island.


A fresh water dip in Lake McKenzie

Another overnight sail brought us to Bundaberg where Mum and Robert could catch the train back to Brisbane for their flight back to the UK.

So that brings us to the present, bobbing at anchor and waiting for the weather to head further north. We have come full circle, back to Bundaburg, our Port of entry into Australia. Every mile North of here will be virgin territory for us, an exciting prospect. The last 3 years have been spent moving forwards. New ground, new seas, new people, new experiences. Returning to familiar ports and retracing our steps, although much less daunting, lacks the excitement and change we have grown accustomed to. The horizon is calling.


Australia, Blog

Sailing Sydney Harbour on a Shoestring

The Iconic Sydney Harbour is right up there in the must do sailing destinations of the world. It felt surreal to be cruising under the harbour bridge together, on our own boat, half a world away from where our journey began.


Witnessing the tip of Florence’s mast glide under the soaring metal framework of one of the world’s most famous bridges gave us a serious case of the warm and fuzzy feelings. The achievement of sailing ‘half-way around the world’ had passed under the keel thousands of miles ago, yet this had that same landmark moment feeling. Yet another seemingly impossible dream accomplished together.

Photos of Florence with thanks to Marjo and Mark on Ospray

Our arrival in Sydney had coincided with the city’s ‘silly season’; the southern hemisphere Christmas and New Year summer break that still feels so alien to us (Christmas should be cold not hot!). Offices loose their hard working staff, and usually solitary soles like us gain a LOT of noisy, excited neighbours. Neighbours anchored so close we could have a whispered conversation with them, if it was not for their heavily vibrating sound system competing with the revelry on our opposite side. Serenity is not an option. The party season must be embraced if we are to experience the city in it’s New Year celebration splendor.

Where’s Florence?!

Our party season was kicked off with a traditional Aussie Christmas BBQ aboard Osprey with friends Mark and Marjo. Boxing day brought the start of the Sydney Hobart Race, an amazing spectacle, viewed from the northern headland, walking distance from our anchorage.

Next on the calendar was the ‘not be missed’ Sydney New Year Fireworks. The chaos of Christmas served as great training for the mayhem of New Year. Thousands of other boaters jostled for the top viewing spot of the great event. In a last minute ‘we are only here once’ leap, we rafted up with friends Jadean and Osprey right at the heart of the action, in front of the Opera House. Jadean had been holding a great spot for us and their twin engine catamaran proved extremely useful. Their skipper Barry regularly manoeuvred our anchored, 3 boat raft away from other boats who came in late and wanted in on the party. Despite the chaos, the experience of watching the fireworks from Florence was everything we had hoped it would be and made even more special for being shared with friends.

A quiet bay to sleep off the excitement was not to be found. Instead we set about exploring more of the harbour and city. Sydney is ranked among the most expensive cities in the world so exploring on our budget meant picnics, parks, free galleries, museums and events. With free moorings/anchorages and use of our folding bikes, an expensive city became a very cheap month for us. Here are some of our highlights and ways we kept the cost down.

The Botanical Gardens

As we are not city people at heart, we often find ourselves seeking sanctuary from the city in it’s gardens and green spaces. The Botanical Gardens in Sydney has a very interesting history, beautiful gardens and great views, plus it’s totally free to enter.


Getting Around

Sydney viewed from Bradley Head

As with most places we visit we managed to keep costs down while getting around by walking and cycling (using our folding bikes) all over the city and surrounding areas. An Opal travel card made getting further afield very reasonable.  Our favourite walks included days wandering around the city sights (Opera House, gardens, Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, Fish Market etc), around Bradley Head and a separate trip up Middle Harbour. We did several other walks, including Bondi Beach to Coogee but preferred the quieter, more natural surrounds of Bantry Bay in Middle Harbour and Bradley Head.


A Day Trip to The Blue Mountains

dsc_0123-2Our day trip on the train to the Blue Mountains, 2 hours inland of Sydney, proved to be excellent value at $2.70 pp (around £1.50). With a New South Wales Opal travel card you can travel anywhere in NSW for $2.70 on a Sunday! We joined Mark and Marjo on a day of short hikes around the Blue Mountains, using the bus/train to get between sights. The views of the famous Three Sisters was spectacular but we all said that if we were to return, we would choose to spend more time on the Wentworth Falls hike.

Museums and Galleries

There are lots of free exhibitions around the City. A particular favourite of ours was the Maritime Mu -sea -um where we discovered a yacht the exact same age and size of Florence! It had good reason to be there having been the first yacht to have sailed non-stop around the world by a female solo sailor (Australian, Kay Cottee). Inspiring stuff, yet sad to see so much good, still useful, kit hanging in a museum.

So-long Sydney

The free ‘Opera in the Domain’. You even get to take your own picnic and wine.

Sydney has been everything we expected and more. For two non city folk, we have to admit we really like this place. There are few cities you can sail right into the heart of, safely anchor your home, then experience world class Opera, Fireworks, sites and shows all totally free and available to all.  Top that with great sailing, iconic architecture and surprisingly friendly people and we start to wonder why we are leaving. It’s not goodbye Sydney, we’ll be seeing you again one day.

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Sailing South to Sydney

The first stop upon leaving Scarborough Marina was the nearby Moreton Island. The sand dunes had us reverting to excited 8 year olds as we ran about and tried to slide down them. There is so much more to explore in this area but with more bad weather coming we skipped south to hide from the wind in the mangroves near Stradbrook Island.

Once the weather cleared we continued on our way South. In contrast to the isolated beaches we had grown used to, the city skyline now loomed on the horizon. Mansions replaced mangroves and powerboats blasted through the previously serene water.

Checking out entrance/exit to The Gold coast; The Gold Coast Seaway

A brief stop to re-provision and we were heading out of the Gold Coast Seaway, back into the open ocean in an attempt to make our way south in the light northerly forecast. The northerly winds don’t come around very often and we needed to take every opportunity if we wanted to make it down to Sydney in time for Christmas. Pushed along by the East Australian Current, we were making some great progress under spinnaker, easily averaging 7 knots and often reaching double figures with no stress on ourselves or Florence. Cloud cover and nightfall had us dropping the spinnaker as the skies blackened.

After a fairly uneventful night watch and another day spent slipping along in the current, the radio mentioned a boat to the south of us having to turn back due to bad weather. The wind had switched around to the south, meaning whatever had turned them around was coming our way. With nothing on the forecast we radioed the coastguard but no other information could be gained. Most of the harbours on this section of coast have breaking waves at the entrance caused by shallow sand bars, meaning they should only be entered in good weather and at the right state of the tide. With no harbour entrance reachable before dusk, our only options were to reef down and sit out what ever was coming, or turn back towards the last safe harbour, 50 miles (a least 9 hours) behind us. Either way we would have to face the weather at sea and in the dark. As darkness fell, the wind was not only on the nose but reaching 30 knots in the gusts, quickly building a big, steep sea against the 4 knot current. We reefed down to storm sails to slow Florence down and stop her jumping off and pounding into the steep waves. We have learned to be patient in these situations, making progress forward would be uncomfortable and put strain on Florence so we were happy to wait it out, the only thing giving us any forward motion was the south flowing current. Torrential rain, thunder and forked lightening all added to the excitement. It was two tired, bedraggled sailors who gratefully sailed into the calm of Port Stephens the following day.

More thunderstorms coming our way in Port Stephens
The calm after the storm

With some strong winds now forecast we ventured up a creek  in Port Stephens and anchored off a some beautiful houses set back from the water. While visiting his boat on the mooring in front of his house, David popped over to say hello. We were soon exchanging stories over coffee and before we knew it he had offered us a lift to the shops/use of his car/washing machine and shower. Once squeaky clean, we enjoyed hearing more about his adventures over a few beers, it turned out that David has sailed to many of the same places as us. The welcome we have received from strangers has been one of the most surprising and humbling aspects of our trip. It takes a special kind of person to welcome a couple of wayward sailors into your home like long-lost friends.

Port Stephens is beautiful, even on a cloudy day.  We are looking forward to spending more time in this area on our way back North.

With Sydney Harbour just one overnight sail away, we were on the home stretch. Despite leaving on the first northerly forecast that didn’t include any thunderstorms, we were battered by an almighty thunderstorm at nightfall. At the worst point, forked lightening hit the water less than a mile away from us. Heavy rainfall and 30+ knot squalls made life on watch pretty miserable, while down below, despite having the curtains closed lightening would light up the whole cabin. Sydney Harbour was a very welcome sight the following morning, we might be staying here for a while.